Because you’re worth it?
Let’s talk about feeling let down. We’ve all felt it, we’ve all said it, we’ve all done it.
In a generation which has an awful lot to say about what it is entitled to, we increasingly feel like we are being let down, disappointed, and not given that which we deserve.
We’re sold this “You deserve more” idea every time we turn on the TV. Advertising certainly plays off this idea and gives us a strong sense of entitlement, but also in TV dramas and reality shows the power play in relationships is almost always brought back to what each other deserves, or is worth.
It actually seems to be a good thing to say a thing like ‘I deserve better’ sometimes. We’re attempting to clarify what would make us succeed, flourish and thrive. We’re affirming for ourselves the fact that we have value and shouldn’t be harmed, and that’s a pretty important way to feel!
As a girl, which is all the experience I can speak from, I have noticed a very common pattern. If I ever had some sort of boy trouble, the go to solution my friends would offer, and vice versa the solution I would offer if my friends were in the situation, would be to tell me that I’m better off without the guy, that I deserved better. I appreciate that my friends wanted to remind me that they want good things for me, that they were sympathetic to my hurt and wanted to take me out of harm’s way, but I wasn’t often asked about where I’d gone wrong, or where I wasn’t being fair, or where I was acting a little too holier than thou. I want to question that consolation that we so often offer for a second, because it’s possible that we can find a little too much comfort in the words ‘you deserve more’.
It may seem harsh, but how much do I really deserve? I know for certain that God has put a priceless value on my head by dying for me, and I know that we are to see the people around us as people with that same value, and to love as he loved. But have we translated this appropriately with regard to how we what we feel entitled to? I know for sure that I didn’t deserve what God has done for me, and yet he has conveyed onto me infinite value through laying down his own perfect life for my brokenness. In that case, my worth, and all that I deserve, has been both defined by but also completely fulfilled by God. He has set a high standard for how he sees each of us and the love that he wants for us. But as well as setting the standard, he has delivered on that standard by showing and continuing to show that much love to us. So do I deserve more than being let down by other people? Perhaps, and it sounds a bit radical, other people do not bear the responsibility of loving us the way we deserve. Deserve is the operative word, because regardless we are still commanded to love in all we do. This command to love therefore must be for another reason than that God needs for our worth to be validated by other broken people. If only we would understand that this love that others are commanded to show us and we are commanded to show is not because of what we or they deserve, but because of what God desires for us as his children.
I am so challenged by the verse that says, “I will not boast in anything but Jesus Christ”. By myself, in and of myself, I deserve nothing. I hurt people and view people in a way that I would object to if it was done to me. I cannot find anything in me which I can pinpoint that makes me worth being loved and cherished. I don’t have low self-esteem, I’m merely saying, I cannot search myself and find a reason why I, in and of myself, deserve better than when somebody else lets me down.
To be clear, I am not talking about relationships or situations that are abusive or destructive for us, where somebody actively brings us down or causes us harm. I’m talking about when we rub up against someone else’s flaws and the inevitable difficulties that can happen as a result.
The first question that I am learning to ask myself when I feel let down, is, ‘What was I relying on them to do for me in the first place?’ It’s true that others miss the mark on how God wants you to be loved. We can be badly treated, and we can be hurt, and I believe God wants us to be safe and loved, but not because it’s what we in and of something we have earnt, but because of the fact that he has defined us as his children. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the statement ‘I am worth more than that’, as long as we understand that the reason that we are worth more is because of what God has done. The risk in appealing to what we or others do or don’t deserve is that we begin to develop a bit of a superiority complex.
Superiority is not an attitude you can find as part of what it means to follow Jesus; He stops his disciples in their tracks when they argue over who will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Philippians 2:3 says “be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves”. This isn’t about putting yourself down, but instead understanding that you are not above the person who is letting you down, that you certainly aren’t entitled to more than others, and that you are also more than capable of letting the person down in return.
Consider, if Jesus had had the same attitude on earth that we have towards those who let us down, then all would be lost. Of everyone who has ever walked the earth, he was the most qualified to feel superior and push away those who didn’t honour him as everything that he was and is. He was the most qualified to turn his back and say that he deserved more than people could give. Yet Jesus walked amongst disappointing humanity and decided to treat us with all the love that he deserved from us. I don’t remember Jesus saying to his disciples ‘People will hate you, but don’t worry, you deserve better than that’. No, he assured of his presence, and he reminded them that he had overcome it all already. I don’t think he wants us to go around feeling hurt every time someone else misses the mark. I think he might ask you the question, “What were you relying on them to fulfil in you in the first place?”
In God, your worth is set, and no matter how someone else treats you they cannot undo that, you are safe to love people without getting anything back. We need some wisdom about how close we can be to those who consistently neglect to show us love, but pushing away from someone and justifying it to ourselves as being because “we deserve better” is not a healthy solution. After all, we’re going to feel unsatisfied by anyone until we realise that it is up to God to decide how much we are worth, and he is the only one who will absolutely never let us down. Finally, the pressure is off you and me to try to give people everything they feel they ought to have. We love, not because others have earnt it, but because He loved us first.
Becky Roberts is a first year Biblical Studies and Theology student at the University of Nottingham. She grew up in Ipswich and attended St Matthews church, and recently has been very involved with The Forge in Debenham
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